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Jadis: Santa Monica Prop Shop

Claes Andreasson

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Jadis' Shop Window
(Erin Pettigrew)
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Need a huge, double-pole, triple-throw knife switch? Well, if you're trying to create a new life form out of a bunch of left over body parts, you really can't do without one. It's the thing you pull before the thunder crack. You can find a knife switch and other curiosities at a very unusual antique store and prop shop along Main Street in Santa Monica. It specializes in odd laboratory equipment. Claes Andreasson takes us inside.


The store "Jadis," without a doubt, has the most unusual window display along Santa Monica's Main Street. A metallic replica of the robot from Fritz Lang's 1927 sci-fi movie "Metropolis" is flanked by model boats with big motorized flapping wings. Enter the store, and you'll met co-owner Parke Meek, surrounded by a cornucopia of strange and bizarre scientific instrument and devices.

"When they want weird," says Meek, "they come to me."

Thirty years ago, Meek and his business partner Susan Lieberman transformed their regular antique store into Jadis. Since then, the store has become a legendary prop house, chock-full of weird and wonderful objects for movies and TV shows such as "The X Files," "Gods and Monsters" and "Batman and Robin."

Meek has been an avid collector all his life, as well as a skilled furniture maker. "You never know what you're going to need a prop for," he explains. "So you collect every kind of thing that you can find."

Today production assistant Jennifer Hoe is here, shopping for odd laboratory equipment for a Frankenstein scene in an upcoming television episode. Co-owner Susan Lieberman shows her a piece she calls a "double pole, triple-throw knife switch." It's an electrical gadget you've probably seen before. In the movies, a mad professor pulls down the handle of a knife switch to test whether their creation is dead or alive.

While the knife switch is distracting, I'm much more intrigued by the decorative 10-foot-high wooden gear wheels that clatter as they slowly turn. Or the shiny Tesla coils, ready to fling a crackling spark. Or any of the enchanting and terrifying quack medical machines.

The "Accumetor" from the 1930s promises to cure almost any illness, even at a distance, simply by setting the latitude and longitude of a sick loved one. After setting the correct diagnosis on the dial and pressing a big white button, you can send a healing, curative radio wave directly to the selected patient. In the 1930s, people actually believed in the power of this machine. But these days it serves as a perfect prop in a mad scientist's laboratory.

As I walk toward the back of the store, I pass a couple of big, black, scary-looking panels with lots of large and ominous meters and levers. They look like they could easily electrocute a man, but they're just plain fakes. Meek has used his furniture skills to create these unique props.

Meek looks a little like a mad scientist himself: slender, with white-sprawly hair and piercing eyes. "When I die, I am going to hell," he tells me dramatically. "Can you imagine heaven? Full of these… boring jerks…"

Parke himself is anything but boring. Instead, he's passionate and obsessed about protecting his rare and precious finds for only himself to enjoy. After all, he has the largest collection of antique scientific instruments in the world. "They're not for sale," he reminds me.

While the props leave for the star-filled world of Hollywood, appearing on the big screen, Parke is happy spending his time in his dimly lit shop, smoking a cigarette, feeding and chatting with the birds out the back window.

"I never go to the movies," he says. "I haven't been to a movie in years. Why would I go to the theatre? Get in my car. Drive to the movie. Park the car and wait for the damn movie to start?"


  • Comment | Refresh

  • By John Trow

    From Tucson, AZ, 10/11/2008

    That double-pole, triple-throw knife switch is actually a triple-pole, double-throw knife switch -- a bit more unusual. What a cool story about a cool guy with a bunch of cool stuff! By the way, I share Thomas Meek's opinion on the disco music. It's a bit too Entertainment-Tonight-y.

    By Thomas Meek

    From Fort Wayne, IN, 10/11/2008

    Dear Weekend;
    Thanks for the segment re: Parke Meek, Susan Lieberman and their store Jadis in Santa Monica. Parke is my uncle, so I had a particular interest. I highly approve of your treatment of the subject; I think it was done with both humor and sensitivity. It was fun to hear Parke and Susan's voices on my radio. The segment was an excellent portrait of one of the more interesting characters I know, and a good entertaining piece. Good work!

    (I still don't like the disco music you play behind the announcements of coming events but I guess I can't have everything.)

    Thomas Meek
    Fort Wayne, Indiana

    By Mark Garland

    From Hagerstown, MD, 10/11/2008

    Howdy, I heard the promo about Jadis, here is a link to more pictures. http://www.flickr.com/photos/9716802@N02/sets/72157607938475183/

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